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Of a collective traditional leadership or Matabeleland monarchy revival

Zimbabwean independence has been characterised by two significant factors: [i] the unity of Mashonaland in its support of Harare’s systemic oppression of Matabeleland, and [ii] Matabeleland’s disquiet and disunity in her fight of Harare’s oppressive regime. Suffice to say the outcome has been a devastating loss of sociopolitical authority in Matabeleland.

All of Matabeleland dreams are in vain without unity; Matabeleland lies broken today and vulnerable to further abuse by Harare due to the lack of unity of purpose. For decades sociopolitical discomfort levels have been rising in the region albeit, only conveyed through ineffectual muffled and disorganised voices. The nation cannot afford and must not accommodate divisive polity if it is to defeat a committed and united enemy.

For some, this is a political question that calls for political intervention but we must acknowledge too the importance of nonpolitical interventions such as social unity. An apolitical platform will be necessary to bring together all the different political organisations spread across Mthwakazi. This apolitical leadership will be a social filter that reviews political innovation and helps to protect the public from potential abuse by politicians and politics.

Ideally, Matabeleland requires an apolitical leadership that will preserve our heritage; more importantly, a leadership that will represent and preserve ethnic and cultural diversity, nourish and strengthen communities and the Matabeleland nation.

The revival of the monarchy is among one of the several ideas being mooted in some quarters of the population. I respect the past, the history and achievement of our monarchy but I have reservations over the capacity of a revived Nguni monarchy to unify a 21st Matabeleland nation yet I remain open to a constructive debate about its perceived mandate, its role and the scope of its authority.

While there is real potential for a king to bring the nation together, there remains real danger of a monarchy further widening schisms in an already broken sociopolitical environment. There are communities for whom the history of the building of the Matabeleland nation by the Nguni-led leadership violated their rights and the suggestion of the revival of a Nguni monarchy evokes strong and negative feelings.

These communities will not necessarily view the idea of a Nguni king ruling over them as favourable as Ngunis do; to them that would count as a retrogressive step. The risk of any group rebelling remains a possibility with damaging effects for the whole region.

Furthermore, the traditional monarchy is a patriarchy that for others represents an unacceptable values system formulated by men for men. The role of women is mainly a supportive, and not a leading one.

We need to work together to formulate a more acceptable and inclusive traditional leadership. I thus, suggest a Collective Head of the Nation to be made primarily of the existing chiefs in the region. This would be a committee of equals; a Head-of-Chiefs and a deputy would be selected annually by the chiefs themselves and the role would be rotated annually.

I perceive the role of the Collective Head of the Nation to be that of deliberating on matters of national interest including playing an advisory role to politicians and government. I envisage this group playing a role more or less like the House of Lords in the UK. The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament.

Like the House of Lords, the Collective Head of the Nation will be independent from, and complement the work of, the elected members of parliament. Thus, the Collective Head of the Nation will share the task of making and shaping laws and checking and challenging the work of the Mthwakazi government.

On the other hand, the Head-of-Chiefs will play such essential roles as hosting foreign heads of state, leading traditional functions across the country, leading ceremonies that recognise achievements of Matabeleland people of all races and ethnic groups, encouraging public and voluntary service, attending some cabinet sessions as provided for by the constitution, and chairing monthly meetings with chiefs.

The Collective Head of the Nation and the Head-of-Chiefs will provide the vital focal point for national identity. More significantly, these two institutions will give Mthwakazi a genuine sense of sociopolitical stability and continuity.

To say the impact of current efforts to express Matabeleland sociopolitical desires has been inadequate is polite, to say the least. We need to recreate and revive Matabeleland nationalism. Matabeleland recognises that unity is essential if the region is to achieve greater things.

We need an institution that would not just be a political symbol but a symbol of national unity. A monarchy may be primed for such a role but I see it at the moment as potentially more controversial and divisive than unifying and thus suggest a Collective Head of the Nation made up of all chiefs in the region. The mechanism of the system requires further deliberations as does the gender re-balancing of our national authority.


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